Mercedes was bleeding out on my kitchen table.
Leah was holding my sweater to her side, trying to suppress the blood flow.
Lacey was standing near the phone, staring at me.
I couldn't see what Johnny was doing. Then again, he wasn't even near my line of sight.
The man standing in front of me was holding a gun.
Pointed right at my face.
And he was grinning.
I glanced quickly at the gun clenched in his left hand. It didn't shake or waver, so I figured he'd held a person at gunpoint before.
Something connected in my mind.
"You were the one shooting at us," I said.
He nodded. "Quite perceptive, I see," he sneered. "And every shot hit it's mark, too."
I let my eyes flicker over towards Mercedes, then back to him. "Jetty, huh?"
I felt something inside me snap.
Johnny could see the change in Laura just before her hand shot out and grabbed Jetty's wrist. An odd transition from shock and fear to pure fury.
I held on tightly to his wrist and felt myself relax slightly as Jetty hissed in pain, dropping the gun. He ripped his hand free and swung at me, landing a hard blow to the gut and winding me.
Then, it was as if the room exploded.
Suddenly, Lacey was rushing at him with one of the roach-pans, screaming bloody murder. Johnny had picked up on of my chairs and threw it at Jetty.
The man spun and hissed like a cornered cat. A strange light glimmered in his eyes.
I got up and rushed at him, tackling his legs, punching at him in a blind fury.
"NOBODY. EVER. HURTS. MY. FRIENDS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" I howled.
He shoved me off and back-fisted me, sending me to the floor again. Lacey pounded him with the pan.
He shoved her away and scooped up his gun. Swinging around, he wrapped an arm around her neck in a headlock and pointed the gun to her head.
"Do NOT follow me," said Jetty with a crazed grin on his face. "I will blow her brains out if you do."
He began backing out, dragging Lacey with him.
"You better fucking save me," she growled at us. "I'll never forgive you if you don't."
Then, they were both gone.
Leah ended up calling the police after the ambulance had taken Mercedes away. While we were waiting, she patched Johnny's face up.
The cops didn't seem like they'd be much help. Asking the same questions over and over again like broken records, their faces dead-pan, almost looking bored.
And in the meantime, Lacey was getting further and further out of reach.
After the police left, Laura and Leah huddled together on the couch. Johnny sat in the armchair, feeling not for the first time out of place.
"We gotta find her, Leah," whispered the smaller girl over and over. "We can't let him hurt Lacey."
Leah had her arm around Laura's shoulders in a sort of half hug.
"Lacey will be okay," she murmured back. "She's a strong person; she'll be fine."
Johnny felt that she was saying this to reassure herself as much as Laura.
After several minutes of whispered mantras and quiet reassurances, the phone rang. Leah made a move to get up and answer it, but Johnny stood up first. "Stay with her," he ordered, pointing at Laura. Leah looked hesitant at first, then nodded.
He walked into the kitchen and picked up the phone.
"Hello, is Miss. L. there?"
Johnny glanced over his shoulder towards the living room. "She is," he replied. "But...she's in a slight state of shock right now. Who is this?"
The man on the other end cleared his throat. "My name is Thorton Napolitano. I am Mercedes' step-father." The man had the lightest of Italian accents. "I would really like to speak with Miss L., it's important."
Johnny sighed. "I'm sorry to say that that would be a little difficult. Right now, Laura's conversation capabilities have been rendered to only two understandable sentences. I'll pass on whatever information you have."
He heard Thorton sigh over the phone. "I suppose I am going to have to trust you to do that," he said finally. "Very well: please inform Miss L. that I have temporarily placed Mercedes legally under her guardianship. She may now legally sign whatever forms or papers she needs to in the event of, say, Mercedes being hospitalized."
Johnny jolted slightly at that. "How much do you know?"
Thorton chuckled. "I know enough," he replied. "And I'm sure Mercedes will be able to tell you about how one day. Just make sure she's able to, you got that?"
Then he hung up, leaving a very surprised Johnny standing next to the phone. He placed it in the cradle and turned to go to the other room when it rang again.
He picked it up. "Hello, is miss Laura L. available?" Asked a very generic sounding voice.
"Not right now," he answered. "Who is this?"
"This is Dr. Ghest. I wanted to inform Miss. L. that Mercedes K. has been stabilized. She's going to have to stay here for a while longer, but we just wanted her to know that she'll be okay. If you could pass on that information, that would be wonderful."
Johnny nodded. "Okay, thank you, I'll let her know."
Then he hung up.
Laura and Leah were still huddled on the couch when Johnny walked back in, but Laura had seemed to finally calmed down. "Hey," he said quietly. "Both of you, let's go."
They looked up at him. "Where and why?" Asked Laura.
He allowed himself a little half smile. "The hospital. Mercedes is going to be okay."
Somewhere not too far away, Jetty hummed a little tune to himself. Oh, had that been so much fun! The creature was so pleased, he almost felt a warm little glow in the pit of his stomach.
The noisy one was locked in another room.
Well, she wasn't quite so noisy anymore. Somewhere between getting her from the apartment to his little...base...she had withdrawn into herself, appearing tired and contemplative. She was quite a bother, however.
But he didn't want to kill her.
Not yet, at least.